Keeping Tabs on the Competition

By Chemeketa SBDC

Want to know what your competitors are up to? It’s important to keep tabs on them so you know what your customers know. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money nor time, and you’ll learn a lot.
Your first step is to clearly understand your own company’s goals and strategies, and where you stand in the marketplace. Then, and only then, can you understand how you stack up in comparison to competitors. Get a handle on your own business, then choose a handful of competitors to monitor.
Figure out what really matters to you, and hone in on those factors. Watching competitors often involves paying attention to their motivations (what is driving them?), their revenues or profits (as much as you can tell from the outside), how management is behaving and making decisions, and your assessment of their capacity to meet their goals.
Create a system to gather information and store it (folders in a shared drive that are accessible to anyone in your company for instance). And establish a regular time to analyze the information, perhaps quarterly.
Gathering the intelligence is easier than ever, and thanks to the internet, can be largely automated. Here are some common sources to check in with.
• Your competitors’ websites are a first stop to find out what they’re up to. Make a practice of scanning them. And then look into a free website that monitors specific pages and sends you an email alert when they’re changed.
• News sources can give you information. Google your competitors, and sign up for email alerts on
• Check public sources like the Corporations Division to see changes in ownership. You can also access unpublished information through a Freedom of Information Act request.
• Ask your employees what they know; you might be surprised what they can tell you. They talk to customers all the time and pick up lots of tidbits along the way.